UCD Smurfit Team Return as Molson Division Winners

UCD Smufit Molson Team with Prof. Pat Gibbons
UCD Smufit Molson Team with Prof. Pat Gibbons

The first week of January usually marks a familiar return to the rhythm of office life. For the team chosen to represent UCD Smurfit at the 36th John Molson MBA International Case Competition, the first week of January 2017 proved to be an unforgettable experience. The competition is the largest and longest established of its kind in the world. Intense preparations prior to Christmas had been interspersed with end of year exams and project submissions, but finally, the time had come to put our MBA skills to the test. With a vague appreciation of the scale of the challenge facing us, we set off for Montreal satisfied that we had put in the hard yards in honing our strategy and presentation skills. Despite this, we could never have envisioned the magnitude of the experience ahead of us, the highlight of the MBA to date for our team.

Having rang in both the Irish and Canadian New Years, we were glad to have a day of respite on New Year’s Day before the action commenced on Monday. A morning stroll through fresh snow around the historic Old Port of Montreal allowed us dispatch the Christmas cobwebs and observe the city operating at full tilt despite the inclement weather. Historically the commercial capital of Canada, Montreal remains an important centre of commerce, aerospace, finance, pharmaceuticals and technology. The 270 executive judges for the week’s competition hailed from these local industries and global giants spanning companies such as E&Y, Bombardier, Pathfinder, Royal Bank of Canada, Microsoft and IBM.

The eagerly awaited draw to group the 36 teams took place at Monday morning’s impressive opening ceremony. A nervous energy filled the room, as the business school names were drawn one by one. UCD Smurfit were drawn against five leading business schools from Sweden, the US, Canada and Mexico. Over the course of the week we would go head to head with each, in a round-robin format, tackling five unpublished business cases, including a live case. Each team would be allocated three hours to read a 20-30 page business case, carry out an analysis, and develop a strategy and implementation plan. The output in each instance would be a 25 minute PowerPoint presentation to a panel of five executive judges followed by 15 minutes of questions.

UCD Smurfit Molson Team - L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Catherine O'Brien, Tanya Kenny, Derek Anderson
UCD Smurfit Molson Team – L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Catherine O’Brien, Tanya Kenny, Derek Anderson

Day 1: Our opening round saw us drawn against the highly reputable Simon Business School from the University of Rochester in New York. The case challenged us to develop a competitive strategy for Swatch as the company faced the rise of the Apple iWatch. A strong opening performance saw us grind out a win against Simon. This victory would be the platform that gave the team confidence that we belonged on the global stage. We were off the mark.

Day 2: The famous ‘double case day’ dubbed as the toughest day of the week. First up, a global expansion and growth strategy for a complex Portuguese retailing conglomerate. A tough case, and facing very challenging opposition from LSBE of Wifrid Laurier University Canada, we were delighted to notch up another win. Following a short break for lunch, the third round saw us develop a strategy for Uber for South African market entry which we lost to tough opponents from Haskayne Business School from the University of Calgary. After three rounds we were placed 2nd in our division, just behind Sweden’s highly regarded Lund University School of Business and Economics, who were positioned to top the group and make the semi-finals. Any thoughts of coming here to get one victory had soon turned to calculating what results we required to qualify for the semi’s.

Day 3: Proceedings took a different twist, Dave McLaughlin, the General Manager of WeWork, a US shared office space start up founded in 2010 with a current valuation of $16bn, presented a live challenge from his company. We were tasked with developing a new business line for the company. To add to the pressure, having heard of UCD Smurfit, Dave selected to attend our presentation to scout for his next business innovation. We faced off stiff competition from LUND to jointly top the division with Canada’s Haskayne at the end of the day. It would be an early night for the team with thoughts firmly fixed on Thursday’s final round.

Day 4: The final division case on Thursday saw us pitted against the energetic Mexican business school EGADE and challenged to develop a growth strategy for an Indian agri business. A tough case, we debated possibilities at length and felt the pressure ramp up as the time ticked down. Despite the frantic preparations, we made an excellent presentation and impressed the judges by competently validating our strategy under intense scrutiny.

We nervously awaited the announcement of the division winners and semi-finalists as we dined on lunch. When ‘UCD Smurfit’ flashed up on the screen as division winners and semi-finalists we jumped from our seats ecstatic that our hard work had reaped reward.

Following lunch, the team took a well-earned rest in preparation for battle in the semi-final that evening, where we would face the American University of Beruit (Lebanon) and Queensland University of Technology (Australia). We were tasked with developing an integration strategy for a LinkedIn acquisition. The semi-final ran very close with eventual 3rd placed finalists Queensland winning our semi-final. Emotions were mixed at the announcement on Thursday night. We were disappointed to have narrowly lost out on a place in the final but incredibly proud of our achievements in topping the division and beating off strong competition to reach the semi-final.

Despite the packed daily case schedule, the competition organisers ran a full programme of evening events which allowed participants to experience Canadian culture, make new connections from all over the world and kick back after long days of competition. Attending Montreal’s home of ice hockey at the Bell Centre to see Canada play the Czech Republic was one particular highlight. The games’ roots are professed in some quarters to originate from ancient hurling, still though, nothing comes close to a day out at Croke Park! Thursday night’s movie theme party saw us trade business formal for superhero costumes with some of our team discovering hidden super powers at the karaoke machine! The final banquet dinner on Friday night celebrated the end to an incredible week. Canadian university, Memorial, were presented with the Concordia Cup. As one of six division winners, we were also presented with a cheque in recognition of our performance.

As we face into the final semester of the Executive MBA, we look forward to further challenges and further adventure as we visit Japan and Korea on company visits later this year. Molson has however been the stand out experience of the MBA to date and the learning, laughs and friendships forged will remain indelibly engraved in our memories as we wistfully reflect on our time at Smurfit.

We were expertly guided throughout the week and in preparation by Professor Pat Gibbons and we would like to express our deep gratitude to Pat for his encouragement, time, and expertise. We would also like to acknowledge and thank Paul Slattery for his guidance on presentation skills and Ro Downing and all at Smurfit for supporting the team from the outset. The competition itself was also excellently organised and hosted by Concordia University’s John Moslon School of Business and great credit and thanks is due to the organising committee who looked after us so well during the week.  A final note of thanks to the UCD Alumni Association Montreal Chapter and local business community representatives who hosted a reception for us during our stay.

To the next generation of MBAs, ‘the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity for growth’.

Go forth and seize the opportunity.

Catherine O’Brien ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

On behalf of: Derek Anderson, Anne Marie Barcoe, Tanya Kenny and Declan Walsh.

F.O.M.O

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F.O.M.O – Fear of Missing Out – Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere

I’m not sure whether it’s something that I developed while living in London, where there is always a reason to be out, or something that was always in me, and has in fact developed me. Regardless, it is making this chapter a little hectic.

I have just returned to Dublin to do the MBA in Smurfit, after six years working in the UK. A lot of thought went into my choice of school having offers in both London and Dublin. Smurfit’s highly regarded name, a part scholarship and the option to move back in with the folks, made the potential return to my MBA investment in Smurfit stand out a mile.

Was it the right decision? Definitely. The last six weeks has been a whirlwind, but an extremely interesting, engaging and thought provoking whirlwind. The quality of the lectures, as a result of combining high caliber students with world-class faculty and teaching methods, makes you really want to be there. FOMO rating (1-5) on missing lectures, 4.

Golf, Rugby, Entrepreneurship, Thought Leadership, just a handful of societies to get involved in. As newly appointed Chairman of the Golf Society, which I got by default from being the only new MBA to attend the final outing of last year’s society, I am now tasked with organising a calendar of events for the year. On Thursday night, my Competitive Strategy study plan was hi-jacked by an Entrepreneurship event, which I must admit was well worth attending. FOMO rating on missing Society events, 4.

This coming Monday, Global Network Week (GNW) commences. The GNW program is an initiative of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) and is designed to provide students from participating GNAM schools with a rich foreign immersion experience. You have the opportunity to travel to schools abroad, including Yale, or staying in Dublin, where the theme of the week is “The Three Pillars of Innovation in Ireland Technology, Food and Culture”. The aim of the week in Dublin is to “drive innovation and create value by connecting leading global business schools, their resources and their stakeholders. Initially I wasn’t going to take part in GNW because I didn’t want to travel abroad, and if I chose the week in Dublin I would have to drop one my three electives in semester two Executive Decision Making, Strategy Execution and Entrepreneurship) each one of which I really wanted to do. Roll on Week 4 and with the GNW buzz is in the air, FOMO creeps in. The thought of an amazing GNW week in full flow right on my doorstep, while I procrastinate about studying financial reporting for the mid-November exam, got the better of me. FOMO rating on missing GNW week, 5. FOMO rating on dropping a module, 5. Answer, do it all. You can see where this year is going.

I think I can speak for the class when I say we are up to our eyes. My mother thinks that ‘they’ are giving us too much ‘overtime’, as she probably spoke to me more when I lived in London than she does now, when we share the same roof. However, I have explained to my folk, it is all great, I’m enjoying the overtime, and everybody wants to be there. My only challenge is ranking things accurately on the FOMO scale, so I don’t get my prioritisation wrong.

Colin Dunne ~ Full-Time MBA

The True Meaning of Learning


The True Meaning of Learning

Fifteen months ago I contemplated embarking on the executive MBA. It was something I thought would benefit my career. Then, I had just completed my professional accountancy examinations and couldn’t imagine a greater workload from doing the course. Fast forward fifteen months, the EMBA has been a rollercoaster. It is a four-semester course with continuous assessment exercises contributing to final grades. For me, in terms of workload this represents the key difference between professional accountancy exams and the EMBA. Individuals learn the skill of combining the pressures of assignments with readings without forgetting the demands of their full time jobs and family lives. In truth, the intensity of this semester hasn’t yet scaled the heights of the last semester perhaps due to knowledge of a two-week mid-term break with an added week for Easter. However, with several projects due after the mid-term break, there is a general feeling that we are about to quickly shift through the gears.

Before I enrolled, I questioned myself whether I had made the right decision to do the EMBA, whether the benefits of the EMBA outweigh the financial and non-financial cost. In the last week, I have seen an NPV calculation in one of my finance lectures that shows how financially valuable the course is. While that is nice to know, it is not as important as the self-development programmes which I have found equally as valuable as the academic learning. Regardless of time constraints, I would encourage anyone considering the Smurfit Executive MBA to take advantage of the invaluable non-academic sessions included in the programme. To date, my eight academic modules and the non-academic ones of presentation seminars, career development sessions are interactive making the EMBA programme a truly unique experience. This is not surprising considering the rich blend of experience in the classrooms. As Benjamin Franklin once said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. For me, this encapsulates the essence of true learning.

Olumuyiwa Farayibi ~ Executive MBA